Lycoming County’s budget: Solid ideas, storm clouds loom

No tax increase is planned with the 2019 Lycoming County budget.

That’s the good news.

And, as one county commissioner pointed out at a public hearing this past week, the county can’t be constantly raising taxes and expected businesses to locate here.

But the ledger sheet gets a little murkier with each passing year.

The county has some big ticket items on the future to-do list that have to be paid for somehow.

They include a proposed $7.4 million radio system overhaul.

There is a $9 million bond issue penciled into the preliminary budget for a number of high-dollar projects, including replacement of voting machines, a mandated $2 million update of office space for a district magistrate and the county coroner.

The bond issue is coming by the end of December to avoid an impending interest rate increase.

But even after it happens, the commissioners say they are still staring at a $3.1 operational deficit.

And that’s what they are trying to trim right now.

At one of the public hearings, Comissioner Rick Mirabito said, “the public has to decide where it wants to put its money.”

Commissioner Tony Mussare, noting tough decisions ahead, said “it’s time to have our citizens tell us what they don’t want.”

We would suggest that the public should take the commissioners up on their appeal for more aggressive citizen input.

The county’s long-term burdens can only be offset by a few things – savings within the operations of county government, commercial development that adds to potential tax payments and a healthy residential housing market that keeps most of the potential tax-generating housing on the rolls.

The county is still in relatively solid fiscal shape, but there are storm clouds looming.

The storm clouds are underscored by the operational deficit that shows in the preliminary county budget for 2019.

The three potential positives mentioned above need to happen in the coming years to keep those storm clouds from becoming something worse.